I've had the opportunity to revisit two of my top ten shows of 2010 so far and now an unplanned third - Bruce Norris' Clybourne Park
has made its way into the West End and I got hold of tickets to the first preview at Wyndhams. I originally reviewed the show at the Royal Court last September
and Dominic Cooke's production retains most of its original cast: The only new faces are Stuart McQuarrie replacing Steffan Rhodri as Russ/Dan, and Stephen Campbell Moore as Karl/Steve, replacing Martin Freeman who's busy being Bilbo. Everyone else remains including Sophie Thompson's brace of neurotics and Lorna Brown, whose icy delivery of The Line About The Tampon remains the biggest showstopper of the night.
In addition to the jaw-droppingly un-PC comedy this time I also want to point out the moments of pathos, which Thompson in particular is amazing at throwing into the middle of the madness and making you care about her character. There's also the impressive transformation Robert Innes-Hopkins' set undergoes over the interval, and the little touches that link up the 1959 story of the first act with the 2009 events we see in the second half. But surely this is always going to be remembered as that show with the amazing scene where the various characters, white and black, passive-aggressively (and then just aggressively) trade racist jokes to prove how they obviously don't believe any of it, and are definitely not offended. Apart from a slightly slow start to the first act nothing about tonight said "first preview" so it seems the show has smoothly transitioned to its new home and its new cast members. In fact one of them only joined the project very recently - Jason "Herrick" Watkins had been due to replace Freeman but had to drop out mid-rehearsals due to a family emergency, but late replacement Campbell Moore looks as if he's been playing the part for months.
Vanessa was my +1 for this and she loved it, although she admitted to being speechless at the end; since she went home I've had a couple of texts along the lines of "oh and I can't believe they actually said..." so the outrageousness of the show has obviously started to sink in. Clybourne Park
really deserves to be a hit all over again - at a time when the cosiness of a lot of new West End shows is starting to grate on me, it's important to have something as edgy as this thrown into the mix so a successful run would be a good message to send to producers, that playing it safe isn't the only way to go.Clybourne Park
by Bruce Norris is booking until the 7th of May at Wyndhams Theatre.